Friday, January 31, 2014

Goldie Blox

It has been quite a week! I've been teaching at public schools here in Texas for at least 12 years and we have never had a snow day. We have had 2 in the past week! Both days it was just for freezing rain, to the disappointment of kiddos who are dying to see real snow. I'm glad we didn't have to drive in it (people here are really good at driving through high water-but not wintry weather). But it certainly throws off plans and schedules. This is my baby the 2nd time she got stuck with her mama all day, interrupted her beauty sleep, I think :) :

So we are back to our regular schedule now, but the kids are still a little fired up. Yesterday I asked someone to give me an example of a noun and the answer given was: a, e, i, o, u ---a definite d'oh moment! Then we got into a discussion that was very much off-topic because of a child's random question, but I think a necessary safety reminder. However, not what my lesson plans said we were going to talk about. Just glad my assessor didn't walk in at that time!

Since we didn't get a whole lot of work done this week *sigh*, I thought I'd share my students' experience with this game.

I saw this on Facebook and other blogs when she was trying to get funding for it. The creator is a female engineer who thinks girls should be encouraged more to try activities that foster engineering skills so they can develop that love of math too. My very kind sister bought a copy of the game for my students for Christmas and let me tell you---they LOVE it! I consider it to be both a reading (they have a guidebook that gives you instructions how to build some of the templates) and math (the engineering part :) station. They can follow the directions the first few times and then they start coming up with their own. They have come up with some really creative designs!

Especially if you have your own daughter, I think this is a fun game for them. I'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now it's the hot workstation!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Groundhog Day Rigor

Can you believe it's going to be February already?!? I don't know where this school year has gone.

I know we aren't in school on Groundhog Day which kind of takes the fun out of watching online to see if Phil sees his shadow. I think knowing how this winter is going, everyone is probably rooting for an early Spring! I did want to share some ideas of ways to incorporate rigor into activities celebrating this holiday.

1) Create a new Groundhog Day legend. Seeing his shadow just seems so five minutes ago! What are some other predictors we could use about the groundhog, if the groundhog.....?

2) Rules for Groundhog Day-what is always true about that holiday?

3) Of course, the perspective of the groundhog. What do they dream about, wish for, believe, feel, see, hear, etc. Or perspective of his shadow-there's a lot riding on him.

4) Substitute another animal for Mr. Phil. If we were using say a kitten, what would the indicator be, how would we know if we had 6 more weeks of winter.
5) New uses for groundhogs--if they can predict the seasons, what else could we use them to predict?

6) Ethics: is it right or wrong to use groundhogs for this purpose?

7) How do you think they invented Groundhog Day? Why? Why choose groundhogs?

8) Do you think Groundhog Day will change in the future?

Just some ideas as I make my lesson plans. What challenging activities do you do with the kiddos for this fun holiday?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Only One You

First of all, I found this at my local public library:

Can you imagine?! How cool would it be if the kiddos came to us already excited about books and reading. I'm going to try to find a way to do something like this on our campus-maybe 101 books.

I had included this book in my last post:

This is my new go-to book for gifts to children of my friends on their birthdays. It's about a mommy and daddy fish giving lots of good advice to their child. I asked my students to think like a parent and write about what advice they would give their child--I know it's cold outside, some of these will definitely warm your heart! :)

never forget we will be in your heart.

tell him to stand up for yourself, speak up and don't let people push you down.

tell my child to be confident like my best friend.

open your brain good in your decisions and be on the look[out] for bad friends.

No matter what happens, keep walking along and singing your song. :)

Always be truthful and nice so other people could be nice to you and when y'all are nice both of you are.

go play at school and don't talk to crazy people, only nice people

I would say stay healthy

If I were a mommy, I would tell my child believe in your heart and meet nice people.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fostering Imagination

One thing I think sadly is dwindling from the lives of our young kiddos is using their imagination. I don't know what is to blame-the technology-heavy culture or the focus on strictly academics (I mean standardized tests certainly don't test creativity). I just know that one of my goals for my students is that I leave them not just a little better than I found them, but also a little more imaginative. My advice (for what it's worth :) on helping foster imagination in students.

1) Use literature that models it for them.

I love this story, not only for the message it sends but also how creative are those illustrations! The fish look like painted rocks.

I know, this is probably one of your faves by now too-but what a perfect example-you can be creative with a dot! (it's on Tumblebooks too by the way, you can find it for free through public libraries).

One you may not have heard of and how perfect for Valentine's Day. The author takes a play on words and just runs with it! It amazes me the ideas authors come up with!

 A simple, sweet story about a grandfather and the way he remembers his memories.

2. Read them books with no pictures! In my class that's chapter books. At first they roll their eyes because they have no pictures to rely on. But then they realize-I'm making a picture in my head. My impression of the character might be totally different from yours (any Gone Girl novel fans hear that Ben Affleck is going to play the protagonist in the movie--not what I pictured at all when reading it!). Everyone can visualize using their own imagination. 

3. Let them PLAY! I know, I know basically a 4-letter word when it comes to curriculum today. Sneak it in! That's what I do. The dollhouse they are playing with is great for vocabulary *wink*. I love joining the kids at recess to find out what they are playing. Sometimes it's zombies, sometimes princesses-the other day it was even firefighters (probably inspired by our surprise fire drill). My sister and I used to spend hours playing with paper dolls on the stairs, creating stories. Kids today, don't have those same experiences-we need to encourage them.

4. Let them make up the games. We all have games in our classroom for workstations-why not allow the kids to make one up as a product. What a better way to apply what they learn? Let them make up the rules as well-they love to do that anyway.

5. Make art! I know, I know, I'm a broken-record. But it's soooo good for them! Give them a blank piece of paper and let them create what they are thinking. Do you know how many times I have seen kids try to paint with the wrong end of a paintbrush? They have literally never painted before. Look the water turned blue! I know, wait until you use yellow! I have taught kids who struggled in everything else-but with art, they could be proud. Look at what I made! I love to see the different ideas they come up with.

Learn about the masters and then paint like them. Make papier-mache designs-every time I start that activity I get some new gray hairs because it's so messy, but that's what they remember. I've had kids go home and ask their parents to do those activities because they loved them so much!

I am truly grateful for all the technology we have available to us today, but there are some things that I think suffer because of it. This Youtube culture we live in now doesn't require much of our imaginations. I started a chess club on Saturdays at my school and a number of kids thought they knew how to play because they play it online. That would be like me saying I excel at poker because I play it online--that's not the way works-so much of that game is based on what you observe from the other players. There are aspects of the game that they are completely missing out on. Where will the future creators come from if we don't lay that foundation?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

White is for Blueberry

I hate nights like this....can't sleep! Finally decided to get up and be productive instead of counting sheep. Too much on my mental to-do list, I guess. The kids are all excited because there's a chance of freezing rain on Friday-for Texas that means everything shuts down! We haven't had a snow day in 5 years and that one was closing early because of flurries. The weather here has just been so crazy. We have 70 degree days and then one that's 40 degrees. My poor German Shepherd is shedding so much-I think her fur is very confused!

Anyway, I love this book for thinking about things from a different angle:

White is for blueberry....when you see the blossoms that come before the berry. It's a quick read, but one that makes you think. I asked the kids to come up with their own ideas and it was actually very challenging for them. 

White is for orange, because of the white stuff.

Red is for cheese in the cheese wheel.

Grey is for a pencil, because of the grey stuff (lead).

She was talking about black and white photos vs. color

Gray is for penguin

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Uses for Blubber

We did that simple experiment where you put Crisco in a plastic bag and let the children hold it with an ice cube on top, so they can see how it keeps your hand warm. We did that as a demonstration of the blubber many arctic animals have. As a follow-up activity, I asked the kids to write about what a new use for blubber could be, using their imaginations.

for a coat

for the animals and the they won't get sick.

To play a cool prank on your mom. :)

a towel

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Powerful Words

I try to do some kind of project with my kiddos every Friday afternoon. The problem is, this is the 2nd year I've taught most of them; so it's hard to come up with fresh ideas. The combination of the fact that we are reading a chapter book right now that I believe is essentially about words-how they can comfort you, inspire you-the teacher in the story calls them Wondrous Words. Plus the lessons on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his I Have a Dream Speech, I decided we would do a language arts lesson on how powerful words can be. 

At first, I wasn't sure they were going to get it. And this is the first time I walked them through making a triorama rather than just making them myself-I think I got a few new gray hairs! :) However, some of their answers literally gave me goosebumps. 

We made a mobile and I asked them to come up with 4 words that they considered powerful to hang from the triorama. Here's what they came up with:

What's cool about this is--- he is quoting inspirational videos we have watched in class.

                                     worst, meanest, freedom, bold

Extreme Words

I love you, you are a good person

family, lovely, loveful, unique

Goosebumps, right?

Have you heard the analogy for putting in effort-that water boils at 212 degrees, at 211 nothing exciting happens-so you should put in the extra effort. Again a video clip she's applying here.

amazing, powerful

believe, wonderful, confident (love the illustration-we watched our school Spelling Bee that day), truth

This one made me laugh. They are obsessed with the word "Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious"! :)

We talked about how words that were mean could be powerful too.